Nats pound Pi­rates as lineup gets health­ier

NA­TION­ALS 9, PI­RATES 3

The Washington Post Sunday - - SPORTS - BY JAMES WAG­NER

pittsburgh — It has been some time since Washington Na­tion­als Man­ager Matt Wil­liams could fill out a lineup card with the names of many of his ex­pected ev­ery­day play­ers. In fact, the Na­tion­als’ pro­jected eight have not been in the same lineup at any point this sea­son.

But slowly, the team is re­turn­ing to­ward nor­malcy. For the first time in a month, An­thony Ren­don was back, hit­ting sec­ond and play­ing sec­ond base. Yunel Es­co­bar re­turned af­ter miss­ing two games with a sore wrist.

But in a way, Satur­day’s 9-3 win over the Pittsburgh Pi­rates served as a re­minder about the play­ers that helped the Na­tion­als get this far. As a lead slipped away, Ian Desmond cracked a two-run home run in the sev­enth to put the Na­tion­als at ease again. Michael A. Tay­lor played stel­lar de­fense and drove in three runs, in­clud­ing a two-run home run of his own. Gio Gon­za­lez was solid over five-plus in­nings, but re­liever Felipe Rivero stole the spotlight with a daz­zling 11/3 in­nings of fire­balling re­lief.

Fairly soon, the Na­tion­als will welcome back Ryan Zim­mer­man and Jayson Werth, likely be­fore the July 31 trade dead­line. But the big­gest ad­di­tion may be Desmond, sim­ply play­ing up to his abil­ity.

Since the be­gin­ning of the key se­ries against the New YorkMets ear­lier this week, Desmond is 10 for 19 with four home runs, four walks and seven RBI. While he has strug­gled much of the sea­son at the plate in likely his fi­nal sea­son for the Na­tion­als, Des-

mond has been an im­por­tant pres­ence in the Na­tion­als’ club­house, a car­ing team­mate, a good base run­ner and a ca­pa­ble de­fender.

Another up-and-down player, but a vi­tal fig­ure, in the Na­tion­als’ sea­son also helped carry them to vic­tory on Satur­day. Tay­lor has im­proved with each pass­ing month. He played stel­lar de­fense to help snare deep fly­balls given up by Gon­za­lez. He also showed that he can de­liver in dif­fi­cult spots at the plate.

Tay­lor first came through in a key spot in the fourth in­ning. Es­co­bar dou­bled to lead off the frame, one of his three hits. Clint Robin­son was hit by a pitch, and Desmond put down a sac­ri­fice bunt. Pi­rates starter A. J. Bur­nett then hit Jose Lo­ba­ton with a pitch to load the bases.

Bur­nett struck out Matt den Dekker. With two strikes, Gon­za­lez hit a come­backer to Bur­nett that hit Bur­nett’s foot and trick­led away, al­low­ing Es­co­bar to score. So Tay­lor came up to hit with two outs and the bases loaded. He hit a low 2-2 curve­ball to left field to give the Na­tion­als a 3- 0 lead.

Af­ter Robin­son scored, third base coach Bob Hen­ley waved Lo­ba­ton home from sec­ond base. Star­ling Marte easily threw out Lo­ba­ton at home to end the in­ning. Tay­lor padded the lead in the eighth in­ning when he smashed a two-run home run to cen­ter field, giv­ing the Na­tion­als the win­ning sixrun mar­gin.

Be­fore the key home runs by Desmond and Tay­lor, the Na­tion­als let the Pi­rates back into the game in the sixth in­ning. Gon­za­lez cruised through the first five in­nings but then stum­bled. He gave up a sin­gle to start the sixth, and Robin­son com­mit­ted an er­ror to put two run­ners on base. Marte and An­drew McCutchen each sin­gled in a run to chase Gon­za­lez from the game.

Aaron Bar­rett came on in re­lief and got two outs be­fore giv­ing up another run. Wil­liams re­placed Bar­rett with Rivero, who fired 97- and 98-mph fast­balls to es­cape the jam and then tossed another score­less frame. Rivero then gave way to Tan­ner Roark, who threw two score­less in­nings to com­plete the game.

Other Na­tion­als fill- ins turned reg­u­lars also con­trib­uted. Robin­son’s RBI sin­gle in the fifth gave the Na­tion­als a 4- 0 lead, and den Dekker sin­gled and scored on Ren­don’s sac­ri­fice fly in the sixth in­ning.

Na­tion­als cen­ter fielder Michael A. Tay­lor runs down a fly­ball off the bat of Pi­rates right fielder Gre­gory Polanco in the first in­ning of Washington’s 9-3 win in Pittsburgh. Tay­lor went 4 for 5 at the plate to lead a Na­tion­als of­fense that pounded out nine runs on 14 hits.

JARED WICK­ER­HAM/GETTY IM­AGES

Nats short­stop Ian Desmond is con­grat­u­lated af­ter hit­ting a home run in the sev­enth in­ning.

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